Extended unemployment benefits temporarily expired Monday following the Senate’s decision to take its spring recess without approving a one-month deadline extension.
The extension, which will cost around $10 billion, was held up by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who, according to CNN, said no until the costs are offset.
“The Oklahoma senator objected to a commonly used unanimous-consent agreement to pass the bill under emergency conditions, even if it increases the federal deficit. Coburn wants to eliminate additional government spending to pay for the bill,” writes Brianna Keilar, CNN.
“The legitimate debate is whether we borrow and steal from our kids or we get out of town and send the bill to our kids for something that we’re going to consume today,” Coburn said on the Senate floor.
At least 212,000 Americans will be affected Monday, Judy Conti of the National Employment Law Project tells The Hill.
The jobless benefits program that expired Monday included 99 weeks of unemployment benefits; Normally, 26 weeks are available.
Conti says for each additional week the program isn’t extended, another 200,000 will see an interruption in benefits.
COBRA subsidy program -
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) included a 65 percent subsidy designed to make COBRA health insurance coverage more affordable for qualifying individuals and families for up to nine months. Since Dec. 21, 2009, the subsidy has been extended several times and in several ways:
- The duration of the subsidy was extended from nine months to 15 months.
- The eligibility period was extended to include those who became eligible for COBRA due to a lay off on or before Feb. 28, 2010
- The eligibility period was again extended to include those who became eligible for COBRA due to a lay off on or before March 31, 2010
Unless Congress extends the eligibility period again, no one who becomes eligible for COBRA health insurance after March 31, 2010 will qualify to receive the COBRA subsidy, though they may opt to pay for COBRA coverage on their own.
FAQs Regarding the COBRA Subsidy (provided by eHealthInsurance):
Question: Now that the COBRA subsidy eligibility has expired, does that mean I’ll stop receiving subsidies for COBRA?
Answer: No, the term “expiration” only refers to people who would become eligible for COBRA for the first time on or after April 1, 2010. If you’re already receiving the COBRA subsidy, you’ll continue to get your premium assistance for up to 15 months from your initial enrollment date, provided you continue to meet the eligibility requirements for the subsidy.
Question: Will the subsidy be extended for people who become eligible for COBRA after April 1, 2010?
Answer: Possibly. Efforts are under way to extend the subsidy’s eligibility period. Senate legislation that would extend it through the end of 2010 has not yet been agreed to by the House of Representatives or signed into law.
If you are laid off after March 31, 2010 and the COBRA subsidy eligibility period is subsequently extended, you may be able to receive subsidy assistance retroactive to April 1, 2010, depending on the provisions of the legislation in its final form. In the meantime, you may continue your health insurance coverage through COBRA at your own expense.
Question: My subsidy is set to run out after May 31, 2010. What should I do if I don’t have access to group coverage by then?
Answer: If you were among the first recipients to receive the COBRA subsidy, you should start to research your options and alternatives for health coverage right now.
Anyone who is relatively healthy and worried that they won’t be able to afford non-subsidized COBRA premiums should be aware that it can take up to two to four weeks (longer in some cases) to get approved for private, non-group health insurance.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, your best option is to continue COBRA coverage at your own expense. If you can’t afford the unsubsidized COBRA premiums, you’ll need to look into other government-sponsored options available in your state. The Foundation for Health Coverage Education (FHCE) has an excellent Web site and their U.S. Uninsured Help Line can connect you with publicly-funded programs in your state. Their Web site is www.coverageforall.org and their toll-free number is 800-234-1317.
Question: Isn’t the passage of health reform going to make it easier for me to continue COBRA coverage or receive the subsidy?
Answer: Not necessarily. While the health reform legislation signed into law by President Obama may make it easier for you to qualify for and purchase individual and family health insurance coverage, many of its provisions don’t become effective until 2014. Health reform legislation doesn’t extend COBRA coverage for those who qualify for it today, nor does it specifically address the current federal subsidy for COBRA